The head of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines is expected to Pag-asa Island near the disputed territory with China in the coming days as part of his pastoral mandate.
“This camp visit is my way of telling [the military] that ‘Hey, I am a shepherd,’ and then I am also taking care of them, at least with my prayers, with my presence whenever I can,” said Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio.
The Military Ordinariate of the Philippines or MOP is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or military ordinariate of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, serving the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, among others.
The prelate said the soldiers “were happy with my visit,” adding that it boosts their morale.
Pag-asa Island, also known as Thitu Island, is the second largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands and the largest of the Philippine-administered islands. It lies about 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa in Palawan province.
In 2019, the island’s naval port and civilian-military airstrip were upgraded despite being swarmed by Chinese vessels. Pag-asa Island has a naval jetty and landing ramp, dual use military and civilian airstrip, a lighthouse, a five-bed lying-in clinic, a communication tower, and a small elementary school.
While most of the occupants of the structures in the Spratly Islands have military personnel or temporary tourists, Pag-asa Island is the only one with a permanent civilian settlement.
Life in the Armed Forces “is not just all about military things, not all about guns and the bullets, but also all about our people, all about our spirits,” said Bishop Florencio in an interview with Radio Veritas 846.
“So we need to feed also the word of God to them,” he said.
“I give [soldiers] a talk, something about our faith, something about our life and something that is higher than their mandate of serving the country and serving the people,” added the bishop.